A League of Their Own – Part 2: The Unlikely Elites

Anton Krupicka, Ellie Greenwood, and Geoff Roes have ultrarunning resumes that don’t need to be recited here; but what’s remarkable about these three huge names in the sport is that none of them came from particularly “elite” running backgrounds. Here’s what they have to say about finding success in ultras and how they’ve found their way there.

[FYI, this three-part series includes an introductory article and a followup article with Max King and Kasie Enman.]

On their running before ultras:

Anton Krupicka: My PRs in college were 2:11 in the 800, 4:25 in the 1500, 16:31 in the 5K (though this came the summer after my senior year of high school!), 35:29 10K, and 27:31 in the 8k (cross country). Embarrassingly slow for someone who ran in college, even if it was Division III [at Colorado College]. The 5k and 10K PRs are horribly outdated and I would suspect I’ve recently been in sub-16 5K and maybe sub-34 10k shape… I just haven’t raced at those distances in a long, long time. For instance, I ran a 16:53 5K at 10,000′ two summers ago.

Ellie Greenwood: I had run probably 3 or so marathons and a handful of halfs, all on road. I had got reasonable results but nothing exceptional (3h25 marathon). I did a handful of sports at school (in UK), but all at low level and not competitive (netball, field hockey, basketball, 800m track), it was all about being active and participation rather than being seriously coached or competitive (possibly more a UK thing than US, where I find sports for kids is very structured in comparison). I always enjoyed running and ran my first half marathon at age 21 (1:59:57!) but this was for fitness and I didn’t have a training schedule or even a sports watch!

Geoff Roes: I ran both track and cross country in high school. I had some decent success, but nothing like the success I’ve had in ultrarunning. I ran a 4:29 mile in high school; a 2:00 half mile; a 15:10 or so 5k. [at Syracuse]. I only ran one cross country season. I was about the 4th or 5th runner on a very mediocre team. I had a couple decent races that year, but had severe IT band inflammation at the end of the season and never ran collegiately again. I ended up withdrawing from school the following fall and didn’t run an organized race for almost 10 years after that.

On getting into ultras:

Anton: I got into competitive ultrarunning in the summer of 2006. I’d planned on running my first 50K that summer, but had no intentions of doing a 100 miler (the Leadville 100). Circumstances worked out though, I was running 200+ miles a week that summer anyway, and some friends convinced me to go for it. In retrospect, I’m really glad they did – I’d already spent years in the competitive track and XC scene and since I was graduated from college and that structure there was no reason to not go for it and start accumulating experience at that distance.

I first became interested in the idea of running 100 miles when Scott Jurek won the Western States 100 back in 1999. I’d just finished my sophomore year of high school and when I read about that on the Internet I was pretty fascinated with the notion of running for 17 hours straight. I’d run a marathon when I was 12 years old, and always ran pretty high mileage, so the long mountain races always seemed like the natural progression once I went to college in Colorado. I remember doing a solo 30 mile training run in the spring of 2004 – my junior year of college – and being amazed that I felt stronger and stronger as the run went on; it was so much more positive and affirming compared to all the frustration I had been experiencing racing on the track.

Ellie: I heard of a local 50km that was part road, part trail. I had possibly run a sub-40 10km at this time and that seemed like an achievement in itself! Something about the appeal of running further than a conventional marathon appealed – it was a new concept to me and I liked the idea of the challenge and doing something even more unusual than a road marathon. I was probably about 25 when I ran my first ultra.

Geoff: I got into ultras after I moved to Alaska in 2005. Sometime in the later part of that year, I began training for a 50k race that would take place in February 2006. I think living in Alaska, where I didn’t really know anyone was a huge motivation for deciding to do this race. I had a lot of free time on my hands and being outside in Alaska is something that really appealed to me. It just kind of made sense to spend a lot of time outside running. I spent a lot of time between college and moving to Alaska being outside doing various things like backpacking, mountain biking, river rafting, snowboarding, canyoneering, etc. I think the combination of the running background and the outdoor adventure background has been a huge factor in me being able to accomplish the things I have in ultrarunning.

On comparing “conventional” road and track racing to ultrarunning, and why few runners with elite backgrounds have made the jump to ultras:

Anton: Running all day in the mountains is so different from elite-level track and road racing that it’s almost silly to compare the two skill sets. Both require very specific types of fitness and mind-sets that I’ve been realizing don’t have nearly as much overlap as I originally thought. The ability to crank out sub-60 second quarters on the track has almost zero relevance with the ability to, say, be efficient navigating Virginius Pass at Hardrock, or even a more runnable trail like Hope Pass at Leadville. They’re different games, period. Evidence for this can be found, I think, in the difficulty runners like Max King, Chris Lundstrom, and Mike Wardian have had in crossing over to the 50+ mile distance on trails. Uli Steidl has definitely defied this for a few years, but he never tackled a mountain 100 miler either. None of these three guys, though, are even truly “elite” (Uli has definitely had the most success, being on Olympic and World Championships teams), which might be part of why they went to the mountains/trails. There are a lot of ignorant folks in the running world who see that someone like me has a (horribly outdated) 2:42 marathon PR and probably think “any run-of-the-mill sub-2:20 marathoner would destroy this dude at Western States or White River, etc., etc.” when that has been proven again and again to not be the case.

There is still very little money in the sport. If I could run 2:10-15 in the marathon – which, on an international level, is hardly even elite anymore – I would probably spend a lot more time trying to pick up a few grand here and there at B-level road marathons. Or, I might really buckle down and try really, really hard with a lot of focus, to make the Olympic team at the marathon. 2:10 in the US can definitely still get you there…The depth in top-level ultra racing is laughably poor compared to top-level road and track racing. Ultra depth has improved remarkably in just the five years I’ve been in the sport, but it’s still nowhere near road and track. A lot of that is a result of there being basically a farm system for talent development (the NCAA) in track racing and also because the US doesn’t have the same endurance/mountain culture/tradition that can be found in Europe in the Alps and Pyrenees. Why that isn’t the case is a whole ‘nother social question. But, having said that, it’s very exciting to see the depth and overall level of ultras increasing so quickly right now.

Ellie: Elite marathoners, if truly elite, can earn a good living, train full time, have Olympics goals and are truly well known in the general public. Ultrarunning is not something that people can make a living/ career out of and are only recognised within the ultrarunning community (in general) rather than in the community at large. So for runners who run track/cross country and show aptitude for distance/endurance, it is natural that coaches and themselves channel them to the marathon where they can make a living/career/life out of their sport. Also, if you become a world-class marathoner you are truly competing against the best of the best. In ultrarunning you just have to have a passion for running, as although a living can be made, it is not a solid living and the ‘fame’ (I don’t like to use that word, but can’t think of a better one!) just isn’t there. What coach is going to encourage a runner with potential to enter a sport where it is hard to make a living, the goals of Olympics, etc. do not exist nor does the celebrity status and also the level of competition is lower (though this and the money aspect is gradually changing)?

Geoff: I think that [ultrarunning] is a completely different sport than shorter distance running. So much so that I think a strong background in shorter distance running is generally a detriment to an aspiring ultrarunner than it is a benefit. When I first began ultrarunning I tried to apply things I learned running in high school and college. The point at which I actually began to accomplish larger things as an ultrarunner was when I finally stopped trying to apply what I thought it was to be a runner, and, instead, just went out and ran for a really long time in the mountains. I think we can train our bodies to do some pretty amazing things, but when you are talking about running 50 or 100 miles I think you need to genuinely enjoy running tons of hours to find any long lasting success.

On being “pro” in an unconventional sport, and what this type of running means to them:

Anton: Running in the mountains – running in general, even, growing up in Nebraska – has always been much, much more than a hobby. It’s shaped my value-system, personality, and lifestyle basically from the very beginning. I’ve been sponsored since I won the Leadville 100 in 2006, but honestly, only in the past year – since mid-summer 2010 – have I realized it could be something that I do full-time and more truly professionally with the excellent support I receive from New Balance. I think I’ve been extremely fortunate that concepts and philosophies that I’ve held for a long time – I’ve been modifying shoes and running in and advocating minimal shoes since 2004 – hit the mainstream in a big way over the last couple of years. Certainly that mainstream interest has made my running philosophies maybe a little more immediately relevant than they might otherwise be.

I’ve been in grad school the last two years and I’ve tried hard to balance my life equally between academics and running. It seems almost inevitably the running takes precedent, but since I’ve been injured for almost all of 2011, my academics have garnered a lot more focus. I finished up coursework this spring (2011) and now just have to write and defend the thesis, which will happen sometime before the end of the upcoming fall semester. After that, I suppose I’ll consider myself a true full-time professional runner, though I’m sure I’ll look for some non-stressful, flexible part-time supplemental income (i.e., coffee shop, running shop, etc.).

I just flat-out PREFER the mountains and I know that would be the case even if I were a 2:10 marathoner. It’s where I belong and they are where I get my inspiration in life and running. The track and roads don’t fit my personality or what I enjoy in life. This is definitely why someone like Max King mixes it up so much – he just likes doing it all and seeking adventures instead of sticking to the somewhat uninteresting and tame world of the road or track.

Ellie: I would not even call myself a ‘pro.’ I work a 40-hour week at a desk job to earn my living. That is my profession. I in no way consider myself a full-time athlete, as I have a full-time other job and juggle training and races around that. There is no way that I could live off sponsorship, endorsements and race winnings, though what I get from those is the ability to cover many costs, compete at higher level races (that involve travel costs, etc.) and possibly take extra vacation from my ‘real’ job. I don’t think anyone (or very few such as Kilian) can earn a living being a pro ultrarunner. People who do this are also coaching, massage therapists, etc., but that is not truly running – that is having additional income from an associated field. But more and more ultra runners are receiving more significant sponsorship, etc. from shoe companies, etc. than even a few years ago so this may be changing…

If I could be world class at marathon I’d give up trail running tomorrow, because ultimately I would love to make a living from running and if I could have the chance to go to Olympics and other well-publicised world competitions in any sport, I would! I have won the World 100km championships, but this is not a high profile event as ultrarunning is still fringe and therefore lacks recognition. If I would be a world-class marathoner, I could then run trails and ultras once my world-class marathoning days are over! World-class marathoners are probably early 30s – world-class ultrarunners can be much older (Kami [Semick], Meghan [Arboghast]) – so I could have best of both worlds. Or simply run trails/ultras for the fun of it when I am older. Although I think if ultras become more competitive, then the age of winners etc. will come down. Money is not really part of the equation, but everyone needs to make a living and save for the future. If I could make a good (not extortionate) living out of ultra trail running that would be something I would whole-heartedly pursue to achieve.

Geoff: I have a feeling that my life as a pro athlete is a bit different than Kobe Bryant’s life as a pro athlete. Joking aside, though, I wouldn’t say that running is my sole focus of my day. I generally devote an average of 3 hours a day to actual running. Beyond that I might average another hour or two a day of time into making a living as a runner. And this time typically comes in the form of large chunks of time followed by several days of no time. Overall, I end up with lots of free time, which I probably value even more than I value my running. I get to spend several hours each day at home with my family and this is generally more of a focus to me than my running.

Alex Kurt

doesn't live near the mountains, but he makes the most of the trails around the Twin Cities when the weather allows. He is a grad student and writer in Minnesota, and he is pretty sure he doesn't sound like a character from the movie Fargo. You can read more by Alex at ultramn.com/.

There are 46 comments

  1. fredpendergrast

    I disagree with Anton's comment, "Running all day in the mountains is so different from elite-level track and road racing that it’s almost silly to compare the two skill sets." Actually there is a lot of similarity between running marathons and running ultras. Sure, Hardrock may be a bit different since there is very little actual running done, but for 100 milers with around 20,000 feet of climbing there is usually a fair amount of running for which marathon training would be directly applicable. Anton cites a number of famous runners who haven't been able to gain success in longer ultras, but none of these runners appear to have exclusively focused on ultras the way Krupicka does. Have these runners gear their whole season to training for a 100 and–domination. Sure, not every great marathoner will be a great 100 miler, but I bet 50% of them, at least, would be. Look at cycling. You can say riding well in a flat time trial has no comparison to climbing in hills, but time and time again we see great clibers that are also great in the time trial. The simple fact is that if there were more money in ultras the Kenyans and Ethiopians would dominate the sport and even make Krupicka's times look pedestrian. It's time to quit clinging bitterly to the myth that affluent white americans somehow have a special ability to run 100s!

    1. Scott Williams

      'The simple fact is that if there were more money in ultras the Kenyans and Ethiopians would dominate the sport and even make Krupicka’s times look pedestrian'. <– Dead wrong Fred. Of course you have absolutely no evidence to back up this claim. And neither do I.

      'It’s time to quit clinging bitterly to the myth that affluent white americans somehow have a special ability to run 100s!' <– This is the first time I've heard of this 'myth'. Is this something that has just been percolating in your own circle of running friends or something you've read about in journalistic endeavors?

      1. Lance

        "Dead wrong Fred. Of course you have absolutely no evidence to back up this claim. And neither do I."

        You sound like someone who doubted Kenyans and Ethiopians would be able to make an efficient transition to the marathon. Kenyans and Ethiopians are runners just as much as we are if not more however they don't have the luxury of running for fun, they run as a way to make a better life for their families. If there was sufficient motivation to train for a 100 mile race (i.e. a large cash purse) they would do so and they would get that money so they can make a living. I posted back on the RRR 100 article a while ago how there are 6,000+ Kenyans who have ran the OG B standard (2:18). Do you honestly believe that all of them would be incapable of efficiently running a 100 mile race, again, if the motivation was there.

        1. Scott Williams

          Lance, Fred made a statement of 'simple fact'. He has no facts because there are none. It's complete speculation. By my own speculation I don't think that Kenyans and Ethiopians would make 'Krupicka's times look pedestrian'. Of course, I have no facts either.

          1. Lance

            Past historical evidence is pretty good support that if you put up the money the Africans will come, and when they come they will win. Let's try it this way. Name a long distance race with a large cash purse that Kenyans/Ethiopians have not won a majority of the time in the past decade. I will not speculate about making Krupicka's time look pedestrian, I agree it might be foolish to say that due to the inherent nature of trail running but they will certainly dominate if given the right motivation.

    2. Anonymous

      AK is right; “it is silly to compare those two skill sets” and even more silly to add the cyclist parallelism.

    3. CJ

      Max King is a 2:14 marathoner, sub 50 minute 10 miler, Olympic Trials level Steeplechaser. But Max has struggled in the races where the terrain is rugged and over 30 miles. He's an incredible 50k and under trail racer where the terrain is more rolling and smooth. He's even pretty good on a 50 mile course like American River. But the simple fact is (and he admits this) this hasn't translated for him in the grueling, grinding races over 50 miles.

      And regarding the 'Kenyans and Ethiopians' comments, until they toe the line in a Sky series race (usually grueling with tons of vertical), or ultras like San Juan Solstice, Hardrock, Mountain Masochist, or Western States for that matter, we don't really know how they would do. Specificity in training is key and speed on the roads doesn't necessarily translate to the mountain

      1. KenZ

        "Specificity in training is key and speed on the roads doesn’t necessarily translate to the mountain."

        Ahhh, I think that's one of the main points that people are arguing about. That's the crux of the question: if a ripping fast marathoner (or Max King to use your example) did specificity training on rough/rocky mountainous trails for, say, two straight years, would they gain the required skill set and be able to apply their otherwise natural running gift of efficiency/genetics to dominate in the ultra field at least in the 50 mile distance (recognizing that 100 milers add quite a few other specificity elements in addition to the terrain).

        As many have pointed out, it's a thought experiment that is not going to get answered anytime soon.

        1. CJ

          That's a good question Ken…I'm wondering what Max could do if he focused on one race like that for at least 3-4 months and just ran the course over and over. Kyle Skaggs' 2008 Hardrock record is a great example of someone training specifically for a race. He trained on the HR course for 3-4 months leading up to the race and then went out and crushed it

    4. MikeZ

      fredpendergrast

      Are you suggesting that an elite marathoner turn ultramarathoner can revert back to a sub 2:05 marathon performance after 'destroying' the trail 100 milers like you suggest he would with 5 years of training ? The amount of physiological adaptation required to run a hilly trail ultra would be significant for said elite runner and it is possibly irreversible. I think that's the 'skill set' which Krupicka was referring to, i.e. the physiological and biomechanical requirements between the two types of running. However, I agree that the focus and work ethics required of an elite marathoner could be advantageous in his/her success in ultra distances.

  2. Marc

    I think this "Part 2" follow up to "Part 1" is a great addition to the discussion. Regardless of whomever believes the discussion is worthy or not, it is a discussion within our community nonetheless and that alone makes it relavant. Some of us may agree, some of us may disagree, and some of us will just chuckle at some of the comments and carry on.

    In my opinion, one cannot make any definitive statements on the topic because there is no concrete data. My belief is that all athletes (and in general people) have physical and mental characteristics that make them extremely successful in certain disciplines that may or may not carry over to other disciplines. There is no real way to know until they try. Does a 2:10 marathoner who has never ran an ultra have the mental/physical stamina (and GRIT) to win WS100? A 2:10 marathoner has proven they have a gift for running and if they attempted to train with the same conviction for say WS100, I would GUESS that they have a good shot to come in at the front of the field. Top 5? Maybe, Maybe not. At the end, I don't think we can do much more than guess. The bottom line is that it will take more than one person to attempt this to draw any conclusions and even at that point it would still be hard to make a generalized statement because each individual athlete has their strengths and weaknesses. Our Elite's are gifted with their ability to run fast and have mental and physical Grit.

    Also, one thing I was thinking about that I need to throw out there is on Ellie Greenwood. In this article, Ellie mentions before she got into ultra running she ran a 3:25 marathon. This past year she ran a 2:43 marathon and came in second in London… Pretty Freakin awesome! Maybe she has not tapped into her full marathon potential?

    There are several points/opinions from this whole discussion that have really stirred up a lot of interesting thoughts for me, but one that I feel is really important. I would challenge that trying to draw conclusions from one discipline (5K, marathon) to another (100miler) is impossible at this point because there simply are no facts to support it. For now it is just speculation and the folks at the top today are our Elites. And luckily, our Elites are not only gifted athletes but awesome people. I dream of running with our best, but for now will be content toeing the line with them and watching them head off into the distance while I focus on my race!

    Wow, I just wrote way more than I signed myself up for. Time for a beer.

      1. Marc

        Thanks for the correction! No intent to mislead, just wanted to say how a previous accomplishment in non ultra event may not be the best measurement to compare. And also how awesome Ellie is.

  3. fredpendergrast

    Wah, wah wah, there's no evidence. Better call the whambulance. For a long time there was no acceptable scientific studies to prove that smoking caused lung cancer either, but anyone with common sense knew it. Same thing here. In running, you can only increase your speed so much, there is a large genetic componenet and no matter how hard you train you may not get much faster. Not so with endurance however. Virtually anyone who has finished a 100, including elites, probably thought at one time it was nearly impossible. But, by the simple expedient of increasing time on the feet almost anyone can finish a 100. Sorry to break it to you, but there are a number of 100 mile runs with a plethora of people on the line that are more fat than fit. Anyway, the point is that it is far easier to increase endurance than speed and, if we are to believe one of the premises of born to run, we are all biologically programmed to be able to run long distances, whereas there doesn't appear to be any evolutionary advantage to marathon type running.

    1. MikeZ

      Fortunately, some of us have finished 100 milers and are glad to inform you that one does not need genetically pre-determined speed of sub 5 minute mile over 2 hours to run a 100 miler. You don't need evidence for that.

  4. Speedgoatkarl

    What if I invited Meb to the Speedgoat? wouldn't that be interesting….or Ryan Hall? I believe Ryan Hall was planning on trying to run the Grand in record time. Nope,he's not Kenyan, but he's just as fast as em'. It'll be interesting to see how Ryan would do in the big ditch. My prediction….young money keeps the record, Hall blows, or turns an ankle slowing him down.

    C'mon Meb…if your'e out there, show up to the Speedgoat!

    1. Lance

      Hall isn't even close to the best Kenyans but he is indeed the best we have. I think RRR stands to be the best chance of having elite talent come out to a trail race but the purse still isn't large enough to warrant a visit from and foreigners. We'll put you in charge with the responsibility of putting together such a race now, Karl. :P

      1. Dan

        Agreed, Hall just ran a 65+ minute half marathon in San Diego, a pedestrian pace for an elite Kenyan in a FULL marathon. Although since he and Meb are the best marathoners we have, it sure would be interesting to see them stack up against our ultra runners.

        I still think that given the incentives and training specificity, the elite and even sub-elite Kenyans would destroy us on any surface. The massive aerobic engines they've developed since they were running barefoot to school are an enormous advantage to any potential runner from a more "modern" society.

        1. Lance

          Let's not get too "Born to Run" here. The bottom line is Kenyans have a different outlook on running than we do. As you mentioned they grow up and running is natural for them, but most importantly running is a way to make a living in a very difficult country. A few years on the sucessful road running circut and you can buy yourself a nice house and a nice farm to live relatively sucessfully. While there certainly may be some genetic dispotitions to running (obviously I am never going to run a 2:05 marathon no matter how hard I train) at the end of the day I think what separates Kenyans from the rest of the world is mostly mental.

  5. Darthrunner

    It would be interesting to know the running background of all who have commented on this topic. I'd bet personal running and racing experience play a tangible factor in determining our opinions.

    Having done several mountain ultras, I was given a reality check in a hurry at Hardrock. The altitude, terrain and fatigue are factors you truly cannot appreciate until you're deep in the suck. Factors come into play that simply dont exist on a track or in the controlled environment of most marathons. Saying that a world class road marathoner would dominate at mountain ultras is like saying Usain Bolt would be a world class baseball player because he could run to the bases really fast. Maybe, but it's not a given, and certainly not without specific training.

    Leg speed is certainly a factor, and elite marathon runners probably have a huge physiological advantage over Joe Couchsurfer. But thinking that speed translates to technical ability and experience is naive at best and possibly dangerous for the unprepared.

    1. swampy

      I have been holding off on chiming in here, but I must agree with you, dark lord. After training hard and predicting a sub-26 finish, I was on the Grindstone 100 course for 34:55. Darkness, fear, loneliness, climbing and desolation are factors that are difficult to quantify until one is "out there"

  6. DL

    All you have to look at is marathon results in the 70's and 80's and now. Rogers, Alberto, etc. winning the big races, now it's all folks from east Africa. If the money is there (maybe it will be in 10-15 years) ultra running will be dominated by dudes from east Africa. It's genetics. The efficiency with which they run can be carried to the trails and if properly trained and motivated ($$)there is no reason they couldn't be successful. I have no doubt the WS 100 record would be smashed by 90-120 min. if Geb, Tergat (in their prime), Makau, Mutai, or any number of top 26.2 runners put their time in.

    1. fredpendergrast

      Absolutely! No one is saying these guys can just show up and dominate. What is being said is that these guys have the background and the habits and commitments to do the necessary training to dominate in 100 milers. As stated earlier, it is much easier to increase endurance than speed, and anybody, especially elite marathoners, can easily increase their mileage little by little until they to can run for 12-20 hours straight. For my money, if you gave Meb the same incentives for winning the Speedgoat as he has for running marathons, and you gave him, say, five years to train for mountain ultras, I think even the inimitable Dakota Jones records would fall.

  7. Ultrawolf

    Your sub 2:05 legs won´t help you climbing a vertical of 1200m when you´re already 20 hours in the race.

    Just watch one of the big marathons, there´s always at least one of the big favorites pulling out after suffering a strain from crossing a BOARDWALK. What about descending 1000m on less than 3 k ?

    Yes, there is NO reason that a Kenyan should not win Hardrock – but there is also no reason why Tony or Dakota shouldn´t still beat him. Genetics ? Biomecanics ? Just watch Tony or Killian on Youtube descending, is there anything you could still improve ?

    In the end it´s only running, no matter if you´re black, white or yellow, the more you train, the better you live, eat and sleep, the faster you can run on day X.

  8. Paul R

    Anyone who has been to the training camps in Africa, Iten, for example and seen the top Kenyans and Ethiopians charging around the mountain trails at altitude would never even have to ask the question – Could they be competitive in long distance mountain ultras. Tarmaced roads are alien to them by nature, but thats were the money is. When the money is elsewhere, that is when mountain ultras will really become interesting.

  9. Ultrawolf

    One major difference is that the Kenyans and Ethiopians CAN make a living out of running. While we go to high school running´s already a way out of despair for them. Some suceed, most probablly not. Who in the "civilised" world would put it all on the line and quit school ? You do this for tennis but not running. Most of us got 9 to 5 five days a week and even the few who don´t got other things to do like coaching services, developing shoes, etc and can´t live for running all day every day. So it´s easy to see why those East Africans can dominate long distance running. What I can´t stand is the undertone of some sounding in my ears like "Hey, you´re all crap, comes a REAL runner the asses of your so called elite get kicked big time".

    Try to follow Kilian, Miguel, Tony or Dakota as long as you can and then claim it again !

    1. freddypendergrast

      Okay, I couldn't follow Kilian, et al. for more than a minute (if that). They are the elite right now and are running gods compared to me. But, yes, "comes a REAL runner the asses of your so called elite get kicked big time”.

  10. Paul R

    In my opinion it's all about genetics. You can have the best lifestyle and diet in the world, but if the talents not there…..

    I dont think Kenyans etc, are running from despair they are just harnessing a natural talent. Dont think i need to respond to your last sentance.

  11. Ultrawolf

    Hi Paul,

    sorry, the last sentence was not addressed to you !

    You´re certainly right, without the right genetics you´re going nowhere. Only I don´t believe that there is a special running gen which can be found only in East Africa. Take Paula Radcliffe, she´s white and still holds the women´s Marathon Record, so far no other female came even close.

  12. Dean G

    Running speed translates into results up through races of 6 hours, judging by the results at Comrades…

    But no one yet knows if there is an endocrine system component (genetic advantage) to being a winning 100 mile racer.

    So we have to entertain the possibility that there may be an important predictor of success that isn't measurable by speed in say a 10k, don't we?

    Certainly as the distances increase the discussion gets interesting… Could Meb break the thru record on the AT…? Etc…

  13. Lundstrom

    A couple comments for Anton in particular…because hey, the legendary Anton mentioned me! This is all very interesting stuff to me, both as a runner/coach and as a student of exercise physiology.

    1) You're dead on in stating that mountain vs. track running require different skill sets. This is the concept of specificity of training. Nutrition, correct expenditure of efforts, muscular adaptation, and a different mental skill-set, are a few of the important ones. If I ever run a 100, I'll probably learn about a whole other bunch of skills that I need to develop. Many, many excellent road/track racers would struggle to develop those skills. Some probably could. Over the next 20+ years, we'll probably get a chance to see. I have a feeling that the sport will become more global, and that will change the game dramatically. If the 100 mile were to become an Olympic sport and Team Ethiopia decided to show up, look out (I know…if, if, if, if…).

    2) In the same way that it is laughable to look at your 2:42 marathon PR and make judgments, it's not quite fair to make judgments about the ability of road runners to cross over based on a handful of performances from people like me who have only dabbled in mountain ultra running. It's easy to pick out the failures, but if we focused on that, let's face it, everyone would look like they're having a rough time of it. Max won the World Mountain Running Championship. Wardian has been consistently high at the World 100k. True, neither of those is mountain ultra running, but they haven't been without success at longer mountain running.

    As for me, I was 3rd at the North Face 50 mile in my first attempt at the distance, having run two road marathons in the previous two months; this was 8 years after my prime as a road/track racer, living in the flatlands of Minnesota…and I thought it was a pretty lousy race. In hindsight, maybe it was the best I could hope to do.

    Finally, I'll just state that I don't think road and track racing is boring. I think that if it's boring you're not doing it right. All competitive running requires you to find that edge between what is possible and self-destruction. That's an exciting place to be, no matter what the scenery looks like.

    Happy, healthy running to all.

  14. Josh White

    It also should be pointed out that, although the physiology probably isn't really that different between North Americans and Eastern Africans, there's a huge motivation difference.

    If it was reasonable for the average Kenyan to go to school, get a job, and pull down the average salary that's possible here in the US, I don't suspect we would see so many amazing runners coming out of East Africa.

    What we have is a culture based around running (in Eastern Africa) where there is relatively little opportunity in other fields in which to significantly advance oneself economically. Average GNI per capita in Kenya in US$ – $710, as of 2010. (http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/kenya_statistics.html). Thus, it's not even remotely surprising that they're all running like mad. It's a way to a better life. Not the situation for Americans.

  15. Josh White

    Actually Fred, there are numerous instances in the medical world where "common sense" has been proven to be completely incorrect.

    Example- Historically, if you got a heart bypass, you ended up in a hospital bed for weeks on end. After all, somebody just sawed through your sternum, so you need to rest and recover, right? Turns out, a lot of people died due to the complications of laying around. So these days, if you get a bypass, the next day your nurse drags you out of bed and marches you down the hall with a cattle prod if necessary, regardless of how much pain you're in.

    There are lots of other examples, but the point is that what seems "obvious" is not necessarily the case until it gets studied.

  16. Benj

    Marco De Gasperi

    1 hour 5min half marathoner

    One of Best Mountain runners in world including beating Kilian at Sierre Zinal and Would have beat Kilian at CLimbathon in Malayian had he not fallen.

    Elite on road, in mountains.

  17. Paul R

    Your sub 2:05 legs will help you if you also trained specifically for a race with lots of climbing, which the athlete would obviously do. I mean, if semi pro runners can acheive great mountain ultra results, i just cant see the logic in saying that 2:05 road guys, with training, cant. Please do not say they have not got the mental fortitude for the distance.

  18. JP

    A few corrections if I may, as an avid follower of ultra and road racing… Ryan Hall ran the San Diego half and had an off run,as is pretty common among elites though they usually drop out and you never hear how bad their times are. His PR, (the American record) is 59 minutes for a half, and not far off the world record. Also at last years Boston Marathon he ran one of the top 5 fastest marathons in history, Kenyans and Ethiopians included, and led most of the race in which the world record was broken, although not officially due to a technicality of how race course was set up. His half marathon split in that race was 61 minutes if you are keeping track. So his resume is more than up to par. If we are forgetting about Comrades, the Africans do have an ultra, that some elite North Americans regularly go to and do well at, and a few Russians have even dominated the race over the years with many elite Africans competing. A race that I believe does have a big prize purse, and has been won by Americans in the past,(Ann Trason, Alberto Salazaar, years after retiring from marathons) showing that the Africans that do ultras arent as dominating as some of these comments are leading us to believe.

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